BINGO! 96-Year-Old Says Volunteering Keeps Her Young



On Mondays, Marcy Bennett leaves her post at the Lemon Grove Senior Center reception desk to take up another duty: calling the popular weekly bingo games.

“It draws a good crowd,” she said. “All the bingo players are older than 60.”

Mere youngsters to Bennett.

The 96-year-old Spring Valley resident is at the senior center every Monday through Friday and was honored as the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program volunteer of the month for March.

Volunteering is part of the secret that keeps her healthy.

“I like working with people and I enjoy it,” she said. “People are congenial and at this age we all need someone to talk to.

“Once you quit work and all your kids are gone, you need something to do.”

Besides greeting everyone, Bennett checks people in for the senior lunches, takes reservations and makes sure people are all checked in an accounted for.

“I have to know everyone’s name,” she said.  “There are usually 30-40 seniors here for lunch every day.”

“We’re blessed to have Marcy as a volunteer here,” said Margaret Bunganich, senior center site coordinator. “She arrives at 8:30 every morning and plugs in the coffee and tea and if anything needs to be set up, she helps set it up.

“She hasn’t missed a day. I can’t even remember a day when she wasn’t here.”

Bunganich said Bennett loves calling bingo, but her front desk job might just have better perks.

“She loves greeting the men,” Bunganich recalls with a chuckle. “She gets a smile out of them, and maybe a hug. And sometimes a kiss!”

Bennett has some great advice on longevity and staying independent.

“If you want to die fast, sit in front of the television all the time,” she said. “I got a dog to make me have to walk.

“By walking morning, noon and night, it keeps me healthy.”

Bennett grew up in San Diego and graduated from San Diego High School in 1935. It was the biggest graduating class ever at the school, according to Bennett.

“I’m wondering if anyone else is left from that class?” she asked.

When’s she’s not busy volunteering, Bennett paints portraits and landscapes, plays piano by ear and enjoys board games.

Her painting had its roots in drawings and artwork she did as a child. She started drawing when she was a kid and taught herself how draw eyes, noses and faces. She used those skills to make paper dolls for kids.

“I didn’t start painting until after my husband died in 1975,” Bennett said. “I saw one of those advertisements for painting classes and decided I could do that and taught myself.”

Her paintings are on display at the senior center.

“Sometimes I paint something that’s in my head or sometimes I go off a picture,” she said. “You have to have imagination.”

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact